Manitoba universities, colleges will not be making vaccinations mandatory on campus

Universities and colleges in Manitoba are not putting in a mandatory vaccination rule on campus, although a handful of schools in Ontario have.

Post-secondary institutions cite legal and privacy concerns, say vaccines are highly encouraged

Université de Saint-Boniface is one of the post-secondary institutions that will not have a mandatory vaccination policy. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

As universities across Canada wrestle with mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for a return on campus, seven universities and colleges in Manitoba say they will not make vaccinations compulsory when the fall term starts. 

CBC contacted University of Manitoba, University of Winnipeg, Université de Saint-Boniface, University College of the North, Brandon University, Assiniboine Community College and Red River College.

All of the schools said although double vaccinations to protect against COVID-19 are highly encouraged, they're not mandatory for staff and students to be on campus. The schools said they'll also be operating a blended model of in-person and remote learning for classes in September. 

David Docherty, president and vice-chancellor of Brandon University, said the issue has been discussed with the province and presidents of post-secondary institutions.

"We can't demand anybody to get the vaccine. That's not within our power or the province's power," Docherty said.

"There are privacy limitations and rights issues that the province was wary [of] … and I certainly agree with those."

Dan Smith, vice-president of academic and research at University College of the North, said the school has been advised by lawyers not to implement a vaccine policy. 

"We understand that practice on this and the law is evolving over time, but right now, that is what our legal counsel has advised us and that's what we're going to go with," he said. 

Other Canadian universities

Questions surrounding mandatory vaccinations for universities and colleges have been asked across the country, from Saskatchewan to Ontario

A small handful of post-secondary institutions in Ontario, such as University of Toronto, Western University, Fanshawe College and Ontario Tech University, have made vaccinations a requirement for students living in residence.

Other places, like McGill University, University of British Columbia, University of Alberta, University of Calgary and University of Regina, are not implementing such a policy. 

Aira Villanueva, co-president of University of Winnipeg Filipino Students Association, said she wants her school to make vaccines mandatory.

Aira Villanueva, co-president of University of Winnipeg Filipino Student Association, believes vaccines should be mandatory for classes and residences. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

"I think they should be implementing that just for everybody's health and well-being," she said.

"It's not just the students that they're protecting. They're also protecting the professors, other instructors too."

Brendan Scott, president of the University of Manitoba Students' Union, said he supports the idea of encouraging vaccine uptake but not mandating shots.

Brendan Scott, University of Manitoba Students' Union president, thinks vaccines should be encouraged but not mandated. (Submitted by Brendan Scott)

"Just promoting the facts about vaccines and telling students to go and get it, rather than actually mandating that they return to campus with a vaccine, I think that's the correct approach," he said. 

"I do believe that student uptake of vaccines has been very good and it's just about reiterating."